"I took a pay cut to come to work here because I think this is progressive company that is going places," said the 50-year-old Augustan who is among the first 100 workers now on the phones at Teleperformance.
Ms. Widener, who took pre-med in college and has worked for Electrolux and Sitel, is now fielding calls from Medicare and Medicaid clients for WellCare Health Plans Inc., which is outsourcing those calls to Teleperformance.
Teleperformance USA opened the doors Thursday to its new 50,000 square foot customer service center in the Waccamaw Building on Wylds Road near the Augusta Mall.
"We want to start out with a substantial beginning, about 150 people, and eventually grow our way to 300," said Randy Zomermaand, senior vice president of operations.
Teleperformance represents the third major customer service center to open in Augusta in the past year. T-Mobile opened its call center in October. Automatic Data Processing Inc. opened its temporary location in July 2007 and is currently building its "Solutions Center" on Flowing Wells Road.
"Here in Augusta, it wasn't hard to find people with medical backgrounds," said Teleperformance trainer Michael Wong. "Our recruiting department did a great job."
Mr. Wong said prospects undergo three weeks of training and then are sent to the main floor for another week of supervision. New classes of up to 50 will start right after graduation.
"We are nothing without our front line people," said Teleperformance's chief executive Brent Welch during the grand opening celebration. "We are a staple in the outsource call business."
Teleperformance, which is headquartered in France, has a worldwide staff of 83,000 people. It has 281 centers in 45 countries. Regionally, the company has customer service centers in Albany, Ga., and Columbia, S.C.
The company, which has its U.S. headquarters in Utah, serves Fortune 500 companies such as Microsoft, Dell, Apple, AT&T and Priceline.
It recently picked up some health care clients, such as Aetna and WellCare.
WellCare is a Tampa-based provider of managed care services dedicated to government-sponsored healthcare programs, focusing on Medicaid and Medicare.
Reach Tim Rausch at (706) 823-3352 or email@example.com.
Teleperformance is still hiring people to staff its Augusta customer service center. There are three ways to apply:
1. In person at 2807 Wylds Road Extension from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
2. Through the careers section of the company's Web site: teleperformance.com
3. Via e-mail; send your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org